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Weaning a calf from a cow is difficult. This is a stressful process for both the livestock and the owner. It is worth considering traditional and unusual weaning methods that can be practiced in the home and large farm settings.
When to wean a calf from a cow
The time of weaning the calf from the mother is chosen by the owner of the animal independently in the time interval between 3-10 months after its birth. Most farmers start weaning an animal around day 205, when it is 6 months old. However, the timing is not that important. The main indicator is weight: it must be at least 60 kg.
Preparing calves for weaning
In preliminary preparation for weaning, the following important nuances should be considered:
- Removal of the horns and, if necessary, castration should be performed while the calf is still accustomed to the mother. These procedures cause him a lot of stress, which can be stabilized by the immediate presence of the cow next to him. But if traumatic operations are carried out during the weaning period, this can aggravate the condition of the animal, lead to rapid weight loss or various diseases.
- To help the calves get used to the new environment, a separate, fenced pasture may be set aside for them a couple of weeks before the intended separation from the mother. If it is not possible to allocate a whole pasture, you can define a separate pasture for the calves. It is imperative to take care of good fencing for this area. Also, this area should be clean, because dirt and dust often provoke various respiratory diseases in immature calves, up to pneumonia - one of the most popular health disorders after weaning children from their mothers.
- Training. Before separating the cow and calf, a number of preliminary preparations are carried out. During this period, the baby is taught to eat from the trough and drink from the trough correctly. These skills will become a priority when he will independently fight for a place near the drinker with assertive and adult cows.
Calves should be fed with the following useful preparatory foods:
- cereal silage - corn, wheat, oats or sorghum;
- concentrated protein.
When buying a protein supplement, you should carefully study its composition. It must not contain any animal products. They can cause signs of mad cow disease in maturing calves, especially those that will be used for milk production. You also need to be careful about the purity of the feed. It should not contain dirt impurities, which can easily provoke airway inflammation in an animal.
An important step in calf preparation is vaccination and revaccination. The first injections are given to animals when they are still accustomed to mother's milk. The order and frequency of revaccination is determined individually by veterinarians.
Important! It is imperative that the farm approves a health support program that is approved by an authorized veterinarian. It contains comprehensive information on measures to help calves.
How to wean a calf from sucking a cow
After completing all the necessary measures to prepare for the stressful process, they proceed directly to the weaning itself. Depending on the conditions of detention and the capabilities of the farmer, the following methods are used:
- "Through the fence";
- with a nose ring.
Separately, the method of weaning with artificial feeding should be studied, which can be psychologically difficult for the animal.
The traditional method of weaning involves:
- Choosing the right day. It is desirable that it be calm, warm and sunny. Such conditions for animals will be more comfortable than wind, rain and cold.
- Placing feed in a place accessible to cows.
- Gradual transfer of cows to other corrals for a comfortable weaning process. For a large pen, you can move 1-2 animals per day.
- Closing the gate when the required number of cows have left the pen so that the calves remain inside. The calmness and naturalness of the applied methods play a huge role here. In this way, the calves will not scatter, as in most cases the cows leave the gate first and only then do their calves follow.
Attention! The recovery period for calves after separation lasts 3-4 days.
The natural method is completely based on the instincts and nature of the cows. This method does not imply human intervention, since in the wild, on unfenced pastures or on farms where extensive farming methods are practiced, the cow independently repels its already adult child. The process of natural alienation occurs just before the cow calves with a new calf.
The method has its advantages and disadvantages. The main plus is less stress, which in any case will be caused by human intervention in natural processes. The calf does not separate from the herd and stays with its family in a comfortable environment. Other members of the pen help him socialize, show him how to eat silage, drink water and be independent from his mother.
The main disadvantage of the natural method is the health complications of the cow, which does not get a sufficient break between lactations and calf feeding. Ideally, she needs a significant period of time to recover the shape and condition of the body before the next calving. It is noted that cows that are separated from the calf earlier than the natural time show better milk production and gain weight faster.
Weaning "Through the Fence"
For this method, calves and their mothers must first be prepared in accordance with veterinary programs, and then the recommendations from the "traditional" method must be followed. Here it is necessary to take into account one important feature - the pens should be adjacent so that the cow and the calf are in the access zone to each other, up to the point that they can sniff each other, but the calf did not have the opportunity to attach itself to the udder.
After that, you need to wait a few days. As a rule, after 4-5 days, animals begin to lose interest in each other. After their final separation, the cows can be placed in separate pens.
With a nose ring
Another method involves the installation of special rings in the nose of the calf. You can do this yourself using a screwdriver or a wrench to align and secure the stud earrings.
Similar nose rings are also inserted into bulls. But unlike calves, they walk with him constantly, and the cubs are removed in 1-2 weeks after they have completely weaned from milk feeding.
The cow itself pushes the calf away when it tries to take the udder, as sharp thorns prick painfully. At the same time, with the ring, the animal can comfortably drink water, eat grass and stay close to its mother.
Artificial feeding method
Artificial feeding is a forced measure when the calf cannot feed on its mother's milk. Weaning from artificial feeding occurs according to the following algorithm:
- Psychological preparation of the farmer. With prolonged hand feeding, a strong emotional bond is formed between the worker and the animal, even at the subconscious level.
- A weaning procedure is carried out for calves whose food was "out of the bottle" at the age of 3-4 months.
- Gradually it is necessary to dilute the provided milk with water, repeating the processes of natural deterioration in the quality of cow's milk, which occurs over time. The second option is more traumatic and requires a decrease in the number of servings per day, which can negatively affect the condition of the animal.
During the weaning process, the calf must be provided with clean water, food and mineral supplements at all times. It is also advisable to move it to a well-groomed pasture where there is a lot of grass.
Veterinarians advise the following:
- keep clean in pens where animals are kept;
- constantly monitor the weight of calves - the main indicator of their physical health;
- when weaning, you need to take care of a good fence, which will prevent communication between the cow and the calf;
- the first 3-5 days, the cow will desperately strive to return to the calf, especially the primiparous;
- minimize stressors to make weaning more comfortable.
Advice! Weaning with an earring almost always works. In some cases, the calf may shake off the nose ring and return to the cow's udder. The situation can be corrected by returning the ring to its place.
You can wean a calf from a cow by following the advice of veterinarians. The main stage of weaning is the preparation of the animals. To avoid negative consequences, stressors should be avoided in every possible way, taking care of the welfare of animals.